Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Extraordinary Popular Delusions

If you've never read Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, I think you should (or at least add it to your Amazon wish list). The copy I own is thumbed and linked above; it also includes Joseph de la Vega's ConfusiĆ³n de Confusiones.

First published in 1841, Mackay's is the classic bubble book, and it covers notable historical "popular delusions" such as John Law & the Mississippi Scheme, the South Sea Bubble, the Tulip Bulb Bubble, etc. It doesn't cover "religious manias" because, writes Mackay, "a mere list of them alone would be sufficient to occupy a volume."

The book's back in my mind due to reflections on the Dot Com bubble and interest in the alleged ongoing housing bubble, which is frequently addressed by Dan Gillmor. The most notable recent development is a May 29th L.A. Times article beginning "The chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Assn. is worried enough about the torrid housing market to get out of it."


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